Russian Regional Politics under Putin and Medvedev

Russian Regional Politics under Putin and Medvedev

Russian Regional Politics under Putin and Medvedev

Russian Regional Politics under Putin and Medvedev

Synopsis

Many authors have alluded to the unique nature of Russia's dual transition and its difficult task of simultaneously reforming its economy and polity. But there is in fact a third transition still far from completed that is of no less importance, the need to reconfigure central-regional relations and to create a stable and viable form of federalism. There are vast economic, demographic and political variations across the Russian federation. Therefore an understanding of regions, and the causes and consequences of cross-regional diversity, is a vitally important dimension of Russian politics that should not be overlooked. It is only by studying regional level politics that we can gain a full understanding of the complexities of Russia's protracted transition.

This edited volume examines regional politics and centre-regional relations over the period 2000-2010, including the most recent developments which have taken place under the new dual leadership of Medvedev and Putin. All eight chapters have been written by leading experts in the field of Russian politics. In addition to chapters on regional elections, parties, regional governors and local politics, there are three chapters devoted to the important developments which are currently taking place in the Caucasus.

This book was published as a special issue of Europe-Asia Studies.

Excerpt

Many authors have alluded to the unique nature of Russia’s dual transition and its difficult task of simultaneously reforming its economy and polity. But there is in fact a third transition still far from completed that is of no less importance: the need to reconfigure central–regional relations and to create a stable and viable form of federalism. With a population of 142 million citizens, made up of 182 nationalities, and covering an area of 170 million square kilometres, Russia is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse multi-national federations in the world. The 83 federal subjects vary widely in the size of their territories and populations, their socio-economic status, and ethnic makeup. The Russian Federation is also constitutionally asymmetrical. Whilst Article 5.4 of the Constitution declares that all subjects of the federation are equal, in fact the ethnic republics were granted far greater powers than the territorially defined subjects. Socio-economic and constitutional asymmetry in turn generates political asymmetry and variations in the levels of democracy and authoritarianism in regional polities.

An understanding of regional politics, and the causes and consequences of crossregional diversity is, therefore, a vitally important dimension of Russian politics that should not be overlooked. It is only by studying regional level politics that we can gain a full understanding of the complexities of Russia’s transition.

Since the election of Vladimir Putin as president in March 2000, Russia’s nascent democracy and federal system has suffered major setbacks. Putin’s primary objectives were to create a unified economic, legal and security space in the federation and to tighten the federal government’s controls over the regions. But the president’s attempts to reign in the power of the regions and to reassert what he called a ‘powervertical’ made a mockery of the principles of federalism and democracy. Far from removing the authoritarian features which the new regime inherited from the Yel’tsin era, Putin widened and deepened authoritarianism in the regions. The president’s initial reorganisation of the Federation Council, his usurpation of unilateral powers to

The Russian Federation currently comprises 83 federal subjects (originally 89). These are divided into six sub-categories, three of which are based on different levels of ethnic autonomy (republics, autonomous okruga and one autonomous oblast’) and three purely administrative categories (krai, oblasti and cities of federal importance). pe="chapter">

Elections Russian-Style

STEPHEN WHITE

ELECTIONS HAVE BEEN THE CENTRAL INSTITUTION OF representative government since at least the ancient Greeks. The story of the extension of the franchise to (eventually) all adult citizens, and the establishment of the principle that the only decisions that could bind them were ones that had been taken by a parliament they elected, is essentially the story of modern democracy. Elections have a much shorter history in Russia; but the changes that followed the October manifesto of 1905 led to four successive elections to a newly established State Duma, and in November 1917, after the Bolsheviks had taken power, there were elections to a Constituent Assembly that was intended to define the nature of a post-tsarist future . . .

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